Hike

Lake Lovely Water

Overnight in BC's Tantalus Range

What if I said you could find a crisp alpine lake stocked with canoes and trout, views of craggy glacier-draped mountains, and a picturesque and publicly-accessible cabin... all only 60km (40 miles) from Vancouver and most likely without anyone else around?

The aptly named Lake Lovely Water is one of the best getaways in the Vancouver area. But it's also one of the best-kept secrets — hidden high up in the Tantalus Range above Squamish, it can be an adventure just getting there.

Canoeing on Lake Lovely Water in the Tantalus Mountains

If you've ever driven between Whistler and Vancouver you're likely familiar with the Tantalus Mountains from viewpoints along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. They rise up like a wall on the western side of the Squamish Valley, rugged rocky peaks stacked with thick glowing glaciers. Squamish has a wealth of stunning mountain hikes, with Garibaldi and Whistler and the Howe Sound peaks only a short drive away, but the Tantalus Range has always been tantalizing out of reach. And ya, I'm pretty sure that's how it got its name.

The trail up to Lovely Water is steep and rugged, but the main impediment can be just getting to the trailhead across the Squamish River — without any road access you have to hire a boat or a helicopter. There's a cable that some climbers like to use to shimmy across the river, but the cable is used to collect important stream flow data for Environment Canada and significant damage is caused every year by hikers trespassing to get across. Pls take a boat instead!

Looking out at the Tantalus Range from the Sea to Sky Highway
First glimpse of Lake Lovely Water
The Tantalus Hut at Lake Lovely Water

There is free camping up at Lake Lovely Water, with tent pads near the trail and a little sandy beach on the west side of the lake. But one of the main perks of coming up to a place like this is being able to leave your tent and stove at home and stay in the cozy cabin.

Built and maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada, the Tantalus Hut costs $15/night for ACC members or $25 for the public. It has room for up to 20 people, and comes equipped with both wood and gas stoves, sleeping pads, and all manner of cooking utensils. And, most importantly, use of the canoes.

We were the first people up that year, so we brought fresh cabin supplies, cleared out all the mouse nests, unlatched the storm shutters, and hauled the boats down to the lake. The old fibreglass canoe was particularly heavy, and we struggled under its weight the short distance to the shore. We later learned that it was hauled by hand up the trail from Squamish! Incredible.

On the shores of Lake Lovely Water
Morning on the mountains of Lake Lovely Water
Paddling canoes on Lake Lovely Water
Emanuel Smedbol paddling on Lake Lovely Water
Paddling the scenic water of Lake Lovely Water

Chores done, it was time to get out and explore the lake. Tantalus is a popular spot for mountaineers, with numerous scrambles and technical climbs up into the surrounding peaks including Alpha and Omega, and even a traverse to the distant Jim Haberl Hut. But we were mostly there just to take the canoe out for a spin.

We paddled the sparkling blue waters, dipping into bays and scrambling out onto small islands, then made our way back to the beach to hike up the rocky creek to the Niobe Meadows. Still decked in early spring browns, the meadow was covered in a fine dust left by the recently receded snow... and yet we still found ourselves inexplicably drawn to taking a little dusty nap in the hot afternoon sun.

Canoeing in the Tantalus Mountains in BC's Coast Range
Pulled the canoes out to explore up Omega Creek in Tantalus Provincial Park
Cold swim in Lake Lovely Water
In the meadows of Tantalus Provincial Park
Taking a quick nap in the alpine meadow
Scrambling up rocks in the Tantalus Mountains
High above Lake Lovely Water
Glacier melt feeding the lake
Clouds rolling in on Lake Lovely Water

There is nothing finer than taking a canoe out on an alpine lake. We paddled the calm waters well into evening, the mountains towering over us, throwing the sunlight into sparkling rays. It's one of the quietest and prettiest little lakes anywhere, and our enjoyment only was only heightened knowing we could rest up in the cabin once night finally, reluctantly, fell.

Evening light in the Tantalus Mountain
Evening chill in the mountains
Alex Strohl parking the canoe on the rocky shore
Out canoeing on Lake Lovely Water in the sunset
Evening paddling on the beautiful alpine lake
Sunset on Lake Lovely Water in BC's Coast Mtns
Paddling back to the cabin in the evening
Sun going down behind the rugged glacier-clad mountains of the Tantalus Range
Canoes and mountains
Evening paddle in the mountains
Little canoe in the big wilderness
Evening watching the mountains fade to blue on Lake Lovely Water
Alex Strohl in the Tantalus Hut
Old photos from earlier mountain adventures
Megan enjoying the mountain views from the window of the Tantalus Hut
Lighting a fire in the Tantalus Hut
Alex Strohl editing a video in the Tantalus Hut